Guest Blog by James Wasem
Live streaming is becoming less of a technical novelty and more a requirement for many churches–something that makes a lot of sense. Sure, online live streaming technology allows you to broadcast and distribute your message around the world, but it also allows you to reach local community members that may not be able to make it to church every week (or at all).
The question is, can they hear you? You know that audio is the most important part of any live stream, right? If your audio quality is decent and your video is so-so, I’ll probably stick around. But if your audio is terrible, I don’t care how good the video is, I’m tuning out.
It is really important to send a consistent audio feed to your live streaming service. There are a few ways to do it, depending on your setup.
THE BARE MINIMUM
Alright, let’s get this out of the way first: do not use the built-in microphone on your video camera. It’s just not going to give you the quality, full-range audio that you need for good sound on your live stream.
If you can’t get a direct connection to your sound console, then at least use a good external microphone that plugs into your video camera or encoding hardware/software. Make sure this microphone is on a stand and positioned in such a way that it will capture the best signal possible (music and spoken word if you’re streaming both).
Use good isolation headphones to monitor the audio feed regularly to make sure that it is clear.
Product Tip: The Zoom H6 or similar audio recorder can work well as an off-board live audio source (with the added benefit of simultaneously recording the audio), or you can use a stereo condenser mic like the Audio Technica AT2022.
LOCAL CONSOLE FEED
Capturing a live audio feed from the mixing console can be a great way to get quality audio. HOWEVER – you need to make sure that this feed is mixed appropriately for the live stream.
Why? I’m glad you asked.
The live audio engineer is mixing for the room, not your live stream. This means that some sources coming through the loudspeakers could be much louder or quieter in relation to other audio sources, depending on what is happening in the live acoustic space. This could make for a very unbalanced audio mix on your live stream.
Mix Tip: See if you can get a group or auxiliary mix from the live sound console that is not subject to the same live room mixing levels (Pre Fader Level). Note: be aware that your live sound operator may not be able to give adequate attention to the levels of this mix since he/she is primarily focused on delivering great sound for the local congregation in the room.
By far the best option for a high quality live audio feed is to have a separate audio console and engineer mixing just for the live stream. This will ensure that all audio sources are mixed and balanced for one purpose – the live stream. While this is not always the most feasible or budget-friendly option for some churches, it will provide the most consistent quality results.
But with or without a dedicated feed, this next tip could really help take your audio up a notch…
Live audio is supposed to be dynamic. Music volume will rise and fall. The pastor may whisper and shout. But your live streaming audience should have the benefit of a consistent, even audio feed, regardless of the local volume dynamics.
Even if you only have one room microphone, it can be helpful to place an audio compressor between it and the camera/encoder input.
Product Tip: Many digital consoles will have built-in compressors that can assist with this process, but if you’re looking for a cost-effective portable solution, check out the Rolls CL151. It is a Compressor, Limiter, and Gate all in one. Or for a rack-mounted solution, the DBX Signal Compressor is a solid choice.
MONITOR THE STREAM
Monitoring the audio feed into your camera or encoder is critical, but make sure you also check in on the final live stream from time to time. Confirm that everything sounds clear and is easy to understand – especially the spoken word. Make any adjustments as needed.
Product Tip: My favorite isolation headphones for monitoring audio in a loud environment are the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro, providing up to 32dB of outside noise attenuation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Wasem is the author of "Great Church Sound - a Guide for the Volunteer." James has been designing, installing, and operating sound systems for 20+ years and he has a passion for helping church sound team volunteers deliver great sound. Connect with James at his informative site, Great Church Sound.